Monday, August 23, 2010

To Skallywag or Not to Skallywag...... That Is The Question...

And the answer? SKALLYWAG, my dears......... ALWAYS skallywag!

I found out recently two very interesting facts about myself. The first is that, it turns out, I am considered a dual citizen. A citizen of both Cuba and the United States. Now don't get me wrong, I've always thought it might be cool to be a dual national........ but.... well............ golly man........ Cuba. Wow. ( more about all that in posts to come )

The second thing I've come to discover is that, in certain cities of this country , I am a criminal. Yes..... me. I commit a particular crime on a very regular basis. Who knew! And here is a picture of me in broad daylight in the very act itself:

And another..........

and another......

Yes, the word is out. I'm a D-Diver................ a Binner.........a Skipper .......... a Skallywagging Re-user who quite frequently shops at D-Mart. Call me what you like. I know who I am. What's more... I have been at it for years and have no intention of changing anytime soon. As a matter of fact, in my home we devote an entire season to back stroking in the waste stream of America. We call it Hippie Christmas.... and, aside from the fall garden harvest, it's our favorite time of year! Hippie Christmas is the magical time of year when young college students make a mass exodus from their campuses for the summer and leave behind literal cubic tons of perfectly marvelous, sometimes never-before-opened stuff. One year, we even sang a hippie christmas carol and had a hippie christmas eve feast of foraged food to kick the whole thing off. We have our fun.......... Brazen!

There are countless goodies to be had from your local dumpster. At hippie christmas and other times I've found CDs, books, alarm clocks, original art, jewelry, a personal DVD player, bookshelves, teapots, paper lanterns, cute bedding, office supplies, movies, gift cards, roller skates, coffee tables, kids toys, picture frames, organizers, party supplies, sound systems, skateboards, an antique milk glass lamp, sports gear, costumes, mountains of designer clothes and even pocket change. Yes.... cash. As a matter of fact, there are very few things I have not been able to find on a curb or in a bin. Any item one could find in a store window, is easily found in an alleyway or dumpster a few weeks later. Some of my favorite outfits have come from the trash too. Silk skirts and new shoes still in the box and hand made jewelry. Nice things. It's all.......... CRAZY! There is just so much of it! It is wild to me that all of these wonderfully usable things, these things that people just had to have, these things that people sacrificed dozens, even hundreds of work hours to pay for, these things that took time to find and purchase, clean, upkeep and display, these things that may have burned up precious natural resources or caused countless work hours and possibly even suffering in their manufacture................ that they are all bound for the landfill to sit and rot and off gas for maybe as many as a thousand useless years. Forget about diamonds.......... A LANDFILL IS FOREVER. There are much better alternatives.

(Resource sharing, neighborhood free boxes, regifting parties/ stuff swaps, conscious shopping, simple repairs and choosing to live with what you really need all come to mind as good ideas.)

Here are a few items we intercepted by way of bin and sent back into the local scene:

Everything I'm wearing in this picture came from the trash can where I found this American flag ball, wall sign, TV, mini fridge, space heater, storage boxes and desk lamps.

On the first day of hippie christmas the trash can gave to me .... one Tato Head and a promise of more bin spreeez....
(or so the song goes)

Can I just say now that college students REALLY like their novelty toys! My son, Kai, tries out all the huge sunglasses, hats, wigs and wands he can find in our garage full of dumpster found objects, furnishings and what-nottery. Yes, that huge wooden bed frame was found by an apartment dumpster with an original price tag of $1595 still glued on the back. It was missing one bolt which took us about ten minutes to replace.

More goodies to add to the heap of hippie christmas TVs, bike helmets, and Mardi Gras beads in the garage. We haven't eaten anything from the trash to date, but still felt the need to rescue these helpless little peeps. 

What to do with all this stuff! Car loads of usable goods add up fast.

Last year we decided to keep our favorite things and then have a garage sale to recirculate the rest of the mound back into the local economy. We polished the stuff up and sold most items for $2 or less. Some things we sold for 10cents. We made nearly $1000.

Our yard sales line a good portion of the driveway. We hold regular sales now to keep good stuff flowing through the homes that use it. I thought we'd start to see a slow in our community's waste with the economic downturn. We haven't.

More than just furniture and designer clothing is being wasted at warp speed in our country. We live in a disposable culture. We throw away food, kleenex, soil, water, free time, store bought goods and even people all the time. Things didn't use to be this way. There was a time, not too long ago when resourcefulness was a national value. Not because it was bohemian chic or because there was such a thing as global warming, but because taking care of your current and future needs is what humanity has always done to ensure it's survival. Until recently it was exceedingly impractical to import daily items (and luxury items) from hundreds or thousands of miles away just to bore of them and send them off to be buried in a hole in the ground somewhere " away" from you. We use to belong to a place for a long period of time, maybe even our whole lives and therefor we had a sense of accountability to the place and the people in it. Modern living has changed a great many aspects of our connectivity. We don't see where our trash goes anymore. We don't see who makes our things. We don't even see what our things are made of. We don't see the place where all the ingredients/ materials came from and how it was treated. Disconnects abound.

There are many groups and organizations working to reconnect us with a true sense of our stuff. To reawaken our collective sanity. Groups like A Taste of Freedom, or Food Not Bombs are turning the immense global food waste into meals and awareness. While movements like Voluntary Simplicity and Freeganism are bringing us into closer alignment with our relationship to things, to stuff. Books like Affluenza, Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal, Your Money or Your Life, The Paradox of Choice, Food Not Lawns, and Cradle to Cradle and movies like Dive, What Would Jesus Buy and The Story of  Stuff are helping us think about just what the heck kind of auto pilot we have set for ourselves as a nation and as individuals. The very best teacher of course is a good dive itself. I've learned a ton about my community, our times, the industrial machine, commerce and marketing, greed, gluttony, the politics of stuff and my own habits through just rolling up my sleeves, slapping on  a pair of latex gloves and jumping in with a friend or two. Yes, my criminal ways have started to influence others.

Here's my hub, James, pulling arm loads of perfectly good things from the bin. We invited my brother, Seth, along so he could document some of what goes on, on a dive and to get his new place set up with housekeeping. He left that day, with a TV, some plastic organizer drawers, a broom, a Swiffer, and a vacuum cleaner among other things. Our crime ring is expanding. We bring and make friends by the curbside now. More people are doing this than you'd think.

I don't want you to worry about  me by the way. There's nothing a good bit of soap can't clean. And as far as breaking the law is concerned..... well I'm only really a criminal in Long Beach. They have some pretty silly by-laws there. In most states, counties and cities of the US it is perfectly legal to re purpose discarded goods found at the curbside or in alleyways. The real question of legality comes in trespassing laws and in city municipal codes. California versus Greenwood was a Supreme Court ruling that essentially names curbed  trash as  free game. It  has always seemed to me that the real crime is in seeing the huge problem of waste and doing nothing about it. Let's make this perfectly clear..... I choose to do this. I don't have to. You'd choose this too if you'd seen what I have seen.

In permaculture, there is no such thing as waste. Waste is considered food or fuel for something else. This is what nature does. It recycles waste and creates more life with it. Like how nature takes your kitchen scraps and transforms it into rich, life giving compost. Good waste systems are designed this way. For me, dumpster diving is just the first step in learning to function the way nature does. I'm still observing things up close and thinking. I wonder how humans can integrate our needs and wastes into the needs of other life forms? A friend of mine recently pointed out that if we as a culture get our stuff together as it pertains to .....well..... stuff, that my lifestyle, the skallywagging lifestyle is actually UNSUSTAINABLE.  She's right of course and I for one welcome it. And as for swimming around in the deep waste stream of a modern dumpster in the meanwhile..... all I can say to you is........ come on in, the water's great!

Peace, Love and Reclamation,

Aleli Jolicoeur


  1. Will gladly join your crime ring with the best out where are my latex gloves...?

  2. Hey, you were supposed to bring me along for this. Remember??? Looks like great fun!

  3. I swear... Alex would LOVE this!! Next time we're out there.. he can go with you guys... : )

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